Dear Mom,

How is it already time to start thinking about high holiday menus? You were right—the summer happened in a minute. I’ve been to Israel and back. I’ve worked through a project and am preparing for the next. I’ve registered for fall classes and am starting to pack my bags again. I’m ready (overdue!) for another pedicure.

I think a lot of Americans return from trips to Israel feeling inspired by community, oneness and connection to the land. I always return feeling inspired by vegetables. Seriously—the salads of Israel! The towering piles of colorful legumes, roots, seeds and leaves saturated with herby oils and lemon juice; heaps and heaps of cold grains with thinly sliced cucumbers, salty cheeses, toasted nuts and fresh summer fruits…crunchy plants for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

I have an American friend who served in the IDF. Once she was working in the kitchen—her task was to prepare salad. After she plated chopped cucumbers, onion and tomato, her commander saw the salad and barked, “Is this salad for people or for elephants?”

My poor friend. She returned to the kitchen to re-slice the veggies for her Israeli colleagues. In America, we somehow missed the skill or practice of chopping vegetables so thin they’re almost translucent. We eat our salads like elephants.

In the days that I’ve been back in the states from Israel, I’ve been in heavy veggie-chopping mode. This beet salad is part of the aftermath—a bright, colorful salad that will be a perfect compliment to some of our traditional Rosh Hashanah dishes. And it’s a real crowd pleaser—vegan, pareve and gluten-free.

This salad thing is an inspiration I know I can carry until my next trip to the land!